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BOOK REVIEW: "Norse Mythology" by Neil Gaiman

W. W. Norton & Company
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BOOK REVIEW: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman ( W. W. Norton & Company) 2017

A civilization is only as good as the stories it tells.

Each society, since the dawn of time, has had their share of tales to talk about the world they live in. It’s within the myths of a people that we can see how stories shape the people who tell them. Today’s civilizations can learn from the accomplishments and the faults of societies dead and gone.

This is where English novelist Neil Gaiman sought the idea of his latest novel, Norse Mythology.

Published on February 7, 2017, Gaiman writes an extensive history of Norse mythology combining stories and timelines to form it into a cohesive story.

Much like comic books, mythology has a tendency to tell separate tales without any sense of chronology. Gaiman, in 304 pages, resolves this long-standing issue. As a child, Gaiman writes how he fantasized about the world of the Norse gods. Characters like Odin, Thor and Loki dealing with the beginning and the Ragnarok enticed his imagination to explore the world of myths and the afterlife.

“It wasn’t the tales themselves that fascinated me,” Gaiman writes, “it is in the connections within one another. It is the poetry between another that speaks to each other into a cohesive story. What I wanted to do with this novel was put it together in one place and tell the story of the Norse.”

Gaiman is a world renown novelist with his most notable novel called American Gods. Each story Gaiman is a tale that echoes from the past yet rings truthful even in the modern age.

How to tell if a story will last throughout the ages is by telling a story over the years and, as it gets older, you see how it ages. Like the myths of the Roman, Greeks and Norse, it speaks of a people long passed. More importantly, it speaks of the human condition to want to understand the world around them. It’s in the innate curiosity of the human spirit which allows people to make stories to give an explanation.

According to the Smithsonian Institute, more than half of the United States population believe that the ancient people inventing myths only made these myths due to their lack of understanding. This might infer that those before us were not as wise or educated as us.

It’s this style of thinking which can be harmful. It’s this philosophy in which Gaiman writes against with each chapter.

One could believe that Gaiman wrote this novel to capitalize on an anthology story with a veiled line interlocking each one. Instead, he writes this chronological story as a means to show the reader that we all wish to understand questions yet to be answered.

Where do we come from? Who am I? How will all of this end?

Much like us, the Norse people thought these same things. It’s the type of questions that have puzzled poets and philosophers for generations. Gaiman confides with his readers by saying people aren’t stupid for wanting to rest their concerns in myths.

In fact, for the most part, the Norse thought of the gods of Asgard as a means to an end; a placeholder answer put as a substitute for an answer yet to be seen.

In this novel, Gaiman takes the various stories told in textbooks and old lore around the world and combines them into a readable story. The novel begins with Odin, the All-Father, being born into the void of the universe. Through a chain of events and catastrophes, the readers feels the strength and weaknesses of the Norse people.

The reader is allowed to see the beginning and the end of the Norse Gods.

What one might be asking is why a book about Norse mythology would interest someone not interested in history.

The answer lies in the lessons of the stories told throughout the novel.

To be a good person, to treat others by the respect that you are given, and to take matters into your own hands and to rely on your own laurels; these are the lessons learned by the Norse to be passed on to any generation ready to read and learn from them.

History and failure are life’s greatest teachers. Where the Norse live on, their myths provided by Gaiman show the cracks in the human psyche and gives a path for those willing to listen. 

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About the Author

Brandon King

Brandon King is a journalism student at OCCC, working towards becoming a professional writer....

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